As the April 3rd trade deadline approaches, the inevitable rumors abound with an increasing intensity. The Blues are not exempt from this eventuality in the least; in fact, their varying levels of success during different stretches of this season augment the speculation. If the Blues play as well as they can and have, they may not need to make any trades or let any of their skilled forwards go. However, if they play as poorly as they have shown themselves capable, they would undoubtedly need to improve their personnel. Thus, two questions are most important: Does the team need to make a trade, and if so, whom could they move?
Even if the Blues continue to play as well as they have recently, it certainly could hardly hurt to add a piece. If there is any area of the team that needs strengthening, it is certainly the defense. The forwards have scored plenty of goals for the most part this season (with the exception of their poorest stretches), and if Alex Steen and Andy McDonald stay healthy, the attack should not be a problem. On the other hand, the defense is quite thin. Wade Redden has not been good enough; he has not utilized his main asset, experience, to an adequate extent. Ian Cole has been consistently unreliable as well. Kevin Shattenkirk scores many points, but makes mistakes and costly decisions in the defensive zone far too frequently. Kris Russell has not played as well as he did last year (although he is improving as the season progresses). Even Alex Pietrangelo has played sub-par defense at certain points. If the Blues make a move, it must be for a large, experienced, consistent defenseman who is reliable in his own zone. Somebody of the ilk of Roman Polak (who has, for the most part, been his usual rock-solid self) to pair with Pietrangelo or Shattenkirk would be ideal.
But who can be spared? Certain names circulate more than others. The player that inspires the most discussion seems, at this moment, to be the surging Chris Stewart. Stewart, recently named the NHL’s number one star of the week, has had perhaps the best stretch of his Blues career, including scoring a splendid, composed overtime goal against the Anaheim Ducks. Some suggest his value will never be higher, and this is probably true, but to trade him would be foolish. Stewart has been the Blues’ best forward this season; his speed and effort have been superb, and his stickhandling and finishing have been masterful. He was given a one-year contract to prove himself, and thus far, he has passed the test. To trade him would most likely (depending on the return, of course) be foolish, and the Blues would lose a fantastic forward with much career upside.
Another name being raised is David Perron‘s. Perron has been adequate this year, but many view him as perhaps the Blues’ most technically skilled player. He can be both mesmerizing and frustrating, and has looked out of sorts during stretches of this season. But his skill is certainly there. The question is, is he valued high enough? A skilled player like Perron has highlight-reel talent, but has his output matched his potential? If the return for Perron is high enough, trading him could be prudent, but that criterion must be met. There is no doubt that, if traded, Perron has the potential to be a fantastic player for another team; if he is included in a trade offer, the Blues will have a tough decision to make.
Other players rumored to be on the block include Brian Elliott and Patrik Berglund. Elliott’s situation shows how tenuous a professional hockey goalie’s career can be. After leading the league in save percentage (in fact, setting a record) and goals-against average last season, he has fell from grace, finding himself third choice behind the surprising Jake Allen and Jaroslav Halak. Part of his lack of success this year can certainly be attributed to the defense’s disappointing performance, but he has certainly been disappointing nevertheless. If a team needs a goalie, he could certainly be included in an offer; the question, again, is what return will he command? Will last year’s success outweigh his lack thereof this season? Berglund has had his best year yet, but his contract will expire at the end of the season, and some (including Jeremy Rutherford) have suggested that the Blues may have to make a decision between Berglund and Stewart. This means one of them could go at the deadline this year, and with Stewart’s success, Berglund may be a more likely candidate.
In the end, there is a reason Doug Armstrong is the team’s GM; he has been a part of several successful decisions made by the Blues administration in recent years. The most notable one was the trade with Colorado that sent former first-overall pick Erik Johnson to the Avalanche and brought the aforementioned Stewart and Shattenkirk. The trade was completely unexpected by many, but turned out to be a success. Mr. Armostrong will undoubtedly be on the lookout for a similar situation; in the meantime, Blues fans will wait with anticipation to see what the Blues may choose to do.